Kehoe Center provides executive-style meeting space centrally located to regional campuses
By Christina Drain
Six miles from the Ohio State Mansfield campus is a little-known gem of a facility that both Ohio State and North Central State College hope will become a destination conference center for the region and beyond.
The James W. Kehoe Center for Advanced Learning in Shelby, originally the Shelby Mutual Insurance Co., is a massive brick structure that greets travelers on SR 39 as they enter the city from the south. Most of the ground floor, first floor and much of the second supports North Central State programs in technology and business, with a good portion of the second floor has been designed as conference and workshop space. The third floor, originally the insurance company’s corporate offices, is slated to become more conference space.
The conference center, just a few miles from I-71 and SR 30, is centrally located to the four OSU regional campuses and Agricultural Technical Institute in Wooster, making it the ideal location for conferences and workshops. Administrators from business and engineering programs from 23 Ohio community colleges recently met at the facility, according to Greg Timberlake, dean of the Business, Industry and Technology Division at the Kehoe Center.
“It does have a regional appeal that way,” Timberlake said. “We also think that with it being midway between Cleveland and Columbus, it can be a good training location down the road for companies that service this area.”
Timberlake thinks that equipment and expertise from current programs will be a draw for both higher education and corporate workshops.
“We have a robotics program, and there is some interest in robotic companies using the Kehoe Center to gather people and use our equipment to train them here,” Timberlake said. “In 2010, we moved the business department from the main campus to the Kehoe Center. Part of the reason was so the business faculty could be presenters and participate in workshops here.”
The Ohio Department of Transportation recently conducted leadership management training at the center with Kehoe staff.
“Down the road it would be great for both North Central and Ohio State faculty to help in those kinds of workshops,” Timberlake said. “As the campuses get closer together, I think that will be happening.”
The Kehoe Center currently has more than 19,000 square feet of meeting space, according to the Mansfield/Richland County Convention and Visitors Bureau, including an auditorium that seats 166 and a banquet room that seats 450 theater-style and 300 at tables. A high-tech videoconference lab accommodates 25. There are several break-out rooms throughout the facility for smaller sessions.
More than $1.2 million has been raised for the third floor Ralph Phillips Conference Center renovation, according to Chriss Harris, executive director and chief executive officer of the North Central State College Foundation; $750,000 of that was donated by the family of Ralph Phillips, a well-known local industrialist and philanthropist who died in a motorcycle accident in 2009.
“This is all local dollars from the Shelby and Mansfield area. There are no state or federal dollars as part of this $1.2 million,” Harris said. “I think that’s significant.”
Harris estimates renovations will begin in June for phase one of the project, which will include high-tech wi-fi-enabled meeting space for 400 as well as the North Central Ohio Entrepreneurial Hall of Fame. The area already has a new industrial kitchen and restroom facilities.
“We should be complete by January and will start having conferences there almost immediately,” Harris said. “In fact, we have already started to get inquiries.”
Funds for phase two will be raised in the next capital campaign in 2014. Phase two will include breakout rooms and a large boardroom in the cherry-paneled offices of the former executive suite. The area will include educational training spaces and a trade show hallway as well as a staffed business service center.
“This conference center will definitely be a destination conference center,” Harris said. “It’s a beautiful area. We want to add walking paths and an obstacle course to allow us to be the site for many corporate retreats. Our site is perfect; it’s on a state highway close to the interstate. I think we have lots of opportunities and we have a wonderful partnership with one of the best tourism organizations in Ohio.”